Improving mental health supports could help prevent school shootings, teachers believe

Most K-12 public school teachers live in fear that a shooting will happen at their workplace, according to a survey from the Pew Research Center.

Fifty-nine percent of the more than 2,500 individuals surveyed — who belong to a nationally representative group of educators — indicated they are at least somewhat worried about the possibility of a shooting happening at their school, including 18 percent who are extremely or very worried. Just 7 percent of respondents said they were not worried at all.

The survey was distributed between Oct. 17 and Nov. 14. In 2023, the number of school shootings reached a record high of 82, according to research cited by Pew.

One in four teachers said their school had a gun-related lockdown in 2022–23 with the occurrence being most common in high school settings (34 percent) followed by middle school (22 percent) and elementary campuses (16 percent). Incidents happened at urban schools most frequently (31 percent) followed by rural (20 percent) and suburban (19 percent) schools.

Additionally, 39 percent of educators surveyed reported feeling their school had done a fair or poor job providing training and resources on how to handle an active shooter situation. Sixty percent said their school had done a good or excellent/very good job preparing them.

Those at urban schools felt the least well prepared (45 percent) followed by suburban (38 percent) and rural (35 percent) schools. Teachers at rural schools felt they had received excellent/very good preparation at the highest rate (35 percent) compared to their counterparts at suburban (32 percent) and urban (21 percent) schools.

“Teachers who have police officers or armed security stationed in their school are more likely than those who don’t to say their school has done an excellent or very good job preparing them for a potential active shooter (36 percent vs. 22 percent),” according to Pew research analyst Kiley Hurst. “Overall, 56 percent of teachers say they have police officers or armed security stationed at their school. Majorities in rural schools (64 percent) and suburban schools (56 percent) say this, compared with 48 percent in urban schools.”

Just 3 percent of respondents said that teachers/administrators are allowed to carry guns on schoolgrounds.

Sixty-nine percent of teachers agreed that improving mental health screenings and treatment for children and adults would be extremely/very effective in preventing school shootings. Forty-nine percent felt that having police officers or armed security at schools would be extremely/very effective. The idea of placing metal detectors in schools received mixed reactions and 70 percent of respondents indicated that allowing teachers/school administrators to carry guns in schools would be not too/not at all effective.

Read a full analysis of the survey’s findings here.